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Preserving the forests Water, man and... trees

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The forest park around Avène has been protecting the site for decades and contributes to the quality of the thermal spring water. Since 2018, we have entrusted our 102 hectares of woods to the care of the Office National des Forêts (National Forestry Office), a recognised expert in the management of trees and forests. Interview with Nicolas Kremer, agricultural engineer at the ONF, who surveyed each of our 11 wooded plots.

What role does the forest play in the quality of water (thermal and drinking)?

It plays a vital role. Firstly, because the trees protect the soil from dryness and erosion. Without them, rainwater would not have time to infiltrate the ground to reach the water tables. It would either evaporate before or trickle down to the rivers. Secondly, because the roots of trees are the first filter in the long transformation of rainwater into thermal water. Finally, because the older the trees, the deeper their roots go, the more they mix into the earth. The infiltrated water can go further and take on more minerals and microelements.

What is special about the forest park at the Avène Hydrotherapy Centre?

It’s a very dense forest that can seem impenetrable. Mainly there are beeches and oaks but also pines, poplars, and a few chestnut trees. It is very old, appearing on maps more than 150 years ago. This is important because it is synonymous with a rich underground flora and fauna, a more successful, more balanced ecosystem. It is beneficial for water quality.

The forest in the park of the Avène Hydrotherapy Centre is very old. This is important because it is synonymous with a more successful, more balanced ecosystem. It is beneficial for water quality.

Nicolas Kremer
Nicolas KremerAgricultural engineer at the ONF

How do you preserve this forest ecosystem?

As the risk of fire is a major factor in the region during the summer, we take care to clear the edges of areas at risk, such as around buildings or busy roads. Global warming is also starting to weaken the pines and chestnut trees. To make the Avène forest more resilient, we must therefore adapt and diversify these populations. We are also going to clear up some oak groves to enhance access to resources for the remaining trees, giving them more space and, therefore, strengthening them. This will encourage grasses to grow and perhaps, with them, silvopasture1. This would be an opportunity to launch a local dynamic between different partners and to involve more actors in properly managing water resources. 

1 Silvopasture is defined as a combination of: a) improved pastoral resources by conserving the beneficial effect of the tree on the undergrowth and the animals and b) a forestry production and protection objective through the enhancement and pastoral maintenance of the undergrowth.